Monday, 31 January 2011

The Look- Here! Project

Over the last 18 months MoDiP has been a partner in the JISC funded Look-Here! Project managed by VADS.
The last project meeting was hosted by MoDiP and included a workshop on digital learning packages and writing for the web.  As MoDiP is embarking on it own digital revolution we all found the workshop very interesting and were able to have a couple of our own digital learning ideas assessed by Martin Bazley  who gave some invaluable advise.
The meeting also included the final details for the end of project conference at which I will be presenting a case study entitled ‘Digitisation done, what now?’.
Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Did You Know? #1

Did you know that you can come in and view any of the objects in store?  If you would like to see a particular object which is not currently on display you can book an appointment by email, telephone, or come and see us in person.

Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

A visit by Friends of the East Dorset Heritage Trust

Thursday 20th January 2011 saw a group of visitors from the Friends of the East Dorset Heritage Trust to MoDiP and the Gallery at AUB. This was the first time we had met with this group and I am sure they didn’t really know what to expect from a Museum of Design in Plastics.  Our current exhibition Nature’s Plastic: Artefacts from the collection of the Worshipful Company of Horners, was a pleasant surprise for them I believe. Like us, I think they found the material intriguing, enchanting and a little unsettling. They were intrigued to hear horn described as a plastic but came to understand that it is worked in the same way as its synthetic counterparts and so is considered to be a natural plastic.

 They were enchanted by the workmanship in some of the more decorative pieces such as the 19th century back combs, the pressed and decorated snuff boxes and the etched beakers and powder horns.

And unsettled? Well, perhaps they were a bit more reassured by the explanation that much of the raw material is a by-product of the meat industry, but there are still stark reminders that the material is animal in origin, being greeted by Rufus, the head of a ram set with a silver snuff box, is a case in point.

After spending some time viewing the exhibition we talked about MoDiP’s other collections and the work that we do here at the AUB and then delivered our visitors to The Gallery, via the coffee shop, to continue their visit by viewing the newly opened Mister Sixties Philip Townsend’s Portraits of a Decade exhibition.
A happy morning well spent and the feedback was very positive. Perhaps we will meet with more of the group some time in the future.

Pam Langdown (Collections Manager MoDiP)

MoDiP collection on VADS

In 2009 the Museum of Design in Plastics completed an £80,000 JISC funded project to improve the digitisation of over 1500 objects from its unique collection, including 450 historical objects on long term loan from the Plastics Historical Society. 
The culmination of this project is the newly launched dedicated section on the VADS (Visual Arts Data Service) website.  This site allows the Museum to share its collection with a wider audience, and places it along side other collections from Central St Martins, University of the Arts London, London College of Communication, as well as the Design Council Slide Collection to name a few.  Searches on the website provide the user with results from all relevant collections as a single continuum.
VADS is based at the University for the Creative Arts and in 2008 attained research centre status within the University Library. It was founded 13 years ago to provide services to the academic community, and since that time it has built up an impressive portfolio of visual collections.  The online collections include more than 100,000 images which are free and copyright cleared for use in UK Higher and Further Education, providing a valuable resource to students and academics.
To view the VADS website please see, to view the MoDiP collection

Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)

Monday, 24 January 2011

How students and staff use the collection #1

Recently we have had a loan request from the AUB Costume course.  The teaching staff wanted a small number of objects from the collection which spanned a number of decades. 
The teaching session was designed to enable the students to develop skills in building characters around an object or an item of clothing.  Who would have used or worn the piece? What kind of person were they? What did they do for a living?
Here are some of the objects they borrowed, what kind of characters would you build around them?
A 1980s radio cassette player

A 1940s espresso coffee maker 

A 1950s electric shaver

Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)

Monday, 17 January 2011

The Worshipful Company of Horners

The Worshipful Company of Horners is both an ancient craft guild and a modern City of London Institution promoting the interests of the polymer industry. Horn has been used since prehistoric times as a cheap, readily available, easily worked material from which essential tools as well as decorative items were made.  The first historic reference to the Company was recorded in 1284, although the craft of the horner dates from centuries earlier. In 1476 the Bottlemakers, whose trade was being eroded by glass bottles, joined the Horners. The Company operates under a Charter received from Charles 1 in 1638, although it is known that there were earlier charters. As the craft of working with horn declined, in 1943 the Company adopted the emerging plastics industry, many of whose production techniques were familiar to the practising horner. The Company has charitable funds which are used to support activities in youth education and industrial design, as well as support for the City of London.

The Company has an extensive collection of items made from horn and the early synthetic plastics which replaced horn. They range from simple agricultural tools such as drenches for use with cattle to sophisticated pressed and pierced horn combs from the 17th century. In addition to these items there is a collection of horn-working tools that demonstrate how the comb makers gradually mechanised their trade. In 2010 the collection of artefacts was relocated to MoDiP, initially for a period of seven years. The collection of over 400 items provides a comprehensive insight into the use of one of nature’s plastics. This hitherto little seen collection has been photographed and documented and is available for reference and can be viewed via the MoDiP on-line catalogue.

For more information about The Worshipful Company of Horners please visit

Pam Langdown (Collections Manager)

Friday, 14 January 2011

The Plastics Historical Society Collection

The Plastics Historical Society, which was formed in 1986, is an independent society affiliated to the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining.

The PHS exists ‘to promote the collection, preservation and study of all material (artefacts, equipment, processes and documentation) relating to the history of plastics and other polymers; to facilitate the interpretation and sharing of such knowledge; and to encourage the recording of current developments in plastics and polymers considered to be of value to future generations.’

The Society has a collection of manufactured plastics artefacts and samples some of which date back to the 19th century, including examples of the very first man-made plastics. In 2009 the PHS collection was put into the care of MoDiP for an initial period of seven years where it was documented and photographed. It is available for reference and can be viewed via the MoDiP on-line catalogue. The PHS collection complements the MoDiP collection of artefacts which is predominantly post 1945. Together, these two collections offer a broad representation of the use of plastics in design.

The PHS website contains a wealth of information about plastics, the history of their discovery and processing, relevant museums and galleries of collections and items on the care of plastics. The Society also has its own library which is housed at the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining in London and comprises many hundreds of books and documents relevant to the history of plastics.

Pam Langdown (Collections Manager)

Thursday, 13 January 2011

The Importance of Plastics

Plastics are an especially important group of materials because of their fundamental role in creating the world as we know it. The story of design in plastics is the story of the industrial and social development of the 20th and 21st century environment. None of the advances in domestic, industrial, commercial of technological design could have been achieved without the properties of plastics¹. Applications have encompassed such different entities as cinematic film, insulation for radar cables in WW2, drip-dry shirts, Concorde’s distinctive nose cone, contact lenses, and so-called ‘rubber’ washing-up gloves. Moreover, since the 1970s plastics have been the material group with the most uses in the world².

Susan Lambert (Museum Head)

¹Lyungberg LY (2007) Materials selection and design for development of sustainable products, Materials and Design, 28 (2), 466-479.
²Cascini G and Rissone P (2004) Plastics design: integrating TRIZ creativity and semantic knowledge portals, Journal of Engineering Design, 15 (4), 405-424.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The Museum of Design in Plastics

Welcome to the blog of the Museum of Design in Plastics (MoDiP).  We are a University Museum based at The Arts University Bournemouth (AUB).   AUB is a specialist university college in art, design, media and performance. Established in 1883 it has developed to become one of the leading providers of teaching, learning and scholarship in its subject areas.
The Museum of Design in Plastics (MoDiP) was set up in 1988 as a collection of objects for learning and teaching entitled the ‘Design Collection’. It became a registered museum in 2001. Following a decision to focus on plastics, it changed its name to the Museum of Design in Plastics in 2007. The following year it obtained full accreditation under the Museums, Libraries, and Archives Council’s scheme. MoDiP is now acknowledged as the UK’s leading resource for the study and interpretation of design in plastics.
The collection consists of over 9000 items complemented by large long-term loans from the Plastics Historical Society and The Worshipful Company of Horners. Together the collections present an in-depth history of the use natural plastics along with their synthetic cousins since their invention in the middle of the 19th century to the present day.
Through this blog we will share with you some of the work that we do with staff and students at the AUB, some behind the scenes glimpses of the museum and the collection, our exhibitions, and our work with external organisations.  
Susan Lambert (Museum Head), Pam Langdown (Collections Manager)
and Louise Dennis (Assistant Curator)